WIMBLEDON – The fate of the eighth and final fourth-round men’s match on Manic Monday was a long time coming.
Would Novak Djokovic and Adrian Mannarino play on No. 1 Court, after the marathon between Rafael Nadal and Gilles Muller? And if so, how long could they play before darkness fell?
Would Djokovic and Mannarino be moved to Centre Court? The net was still up, the umpire’s chair still in place during Nadal vs. Muller.
Would Djokovic and Mannarino start on No. 1 court, then be moved to Centre Court to finish up? There was precedent for that.
But there was no news of any kind, as Nadal and Muller kept holding serve, and holding serve again until Muller finally completed the upset.
It seemed Djokovic might have an inkling about what was to happen.
Novak Djokovic sitting in ATP office watching the match. Don't think he will be playing tonight…
— Stuart Fraser (@stu_fraser) July 10, 2017
Then again, surely he was keeping wife Jelena apprised, right?
Hmmm. Change of plans again @Wimbledon ? ?
— Jelena Djokovic (@JelenaRisticNDF) July 10, 2017
In the end, Wimbledon cancelled the match. Officially, at 8:49 p.m.
And not only did that create more questions than it answered, it also will have a ripple effect on the women’s quarter-finals on Tuesday.
The reasoning was, well, considerate. But debatable.
“The safety and security of all visitors to The Championships is of paramount importance. The preference was to play the Djokovic v Mannarino match as scheduled on No.1 Court.
When that was no longer an option, it was determined the match could not be moved to Centre Court due to the number of spectators remaining in the Grounds.
As late as 8.30pm, 30,000 people still remained in the Grounds, and therefore moving the match would have created a significant safety issue.
Both players were explained the rationale of postponing the match until tomorrow, which is now scheduled for a 12noon start on Centre Court.”
No stampedes at the AELTC
It’s worth noting that Wimbledon is a place that makes a friendly announcement over the public-address system shortly before the gates open at 10:30 a.m. There are thousands of people waiting outside to sprint for the court they plan to set up on for the day, and the announcer asks them not to run.
And they pretty much don’t ever run.
It’s a place where thousands of people camp out every night just to get inside the gates the next day, and it’s all quite peaceful. As well, it’s a place where fans line up forever to get into one show court or another, and we’ve never seen a contretemps.
It’s also worth noting that as popular as Novak Djokovic is, he’s not Andy Murray or Roger Federer in this particular context.
Does it seem as though Wimbledon – generally a well-oiled machine of the highest caliber – is having a few extra bumps this year?
And we don’t mean only the bumps (and divots) behind the Centre Court baseline that some players have been pointing out.
Would they for Fed?
It begs a legitimate question: had it been Murray or Federer on No. 1 Court waiting to play, would they have made the same decision?
The world No. 1 Brit, and Federer – the player many would have pulled heaven from earth to wrangle a ticket to No. 1 Court to see play Monday.
They probably won’t answer that question. Wimbledon makes its decisions – and they’re well thought out and reasoned per all of the parameters they have to deal with, even if people disagree with the outcome. And that’s that.
Wimbledon’s basic philosophy about the roof is that even though it is in place, Wimbledon is an outdoor tournament and, as much as possible, they try to keep it that way.
But if it suits them, they can be “flexible.”
Bouchard hits Centre Court
Last year, Genie Bouchard and Magdalena Rybarikova began their first-round match on Court 12 on the Tuesday, were delayed a full day but when persistent rain blew the schedule up, the tournament made the unusual decision of relocating the match to Centre Court to get it finished Wednesday night.
There were plenty of other deserving candidates. Why this match? It ended up being the only one to get finished while so many players waited out two solid days of rain.
The reason became clear when Brit Johanna Konta got the one women’s slot on Centre Court for her second-round match the next day. She was playing the winner of the Bouchard-Rybarikova match and if that match hadn’t been completed when it was, there would have been no match.
And the more the schedule was pushed back, the harder it would have been to justify putting Konta (then only the No. 16 seed) on Centre when so many more accomplished players were waiting to play.
Frenchmen moved mid-match
In 2015, another unusual situation arose as Frenchmen Gilles Simon and Gaël Monfils were playing their third-round match on No. 1 Court on the first Saturday night, when darkness fell.
If they didn’t finish, they would have had to wait until Monday. And if they waited until Monday, the entire Manic Monday concept would have gone all wrong as the winner of that one could not play a second best-of-five singles match that same day.
So … they relocated the match to Centre Court.
Except, they didn’t announce it. The fans on No. 1 Court, who were only told play was being suspended because of bad light, didn’t know it was being moved. The majority of them went home, and were cheated out of a dénouement and even a chance to get onto Centre Court, if they never had before.
There ended up being, perhaps, 2,000 people on Centre Court as anyone who was still hanging around the site was allowed in.
The difference between that one and Monday’s confusion was that the club stated there were exponentially more people still on the grounds than there were for that Simon-Monfils match.
Tuesday forecast: grim
One parameter Wimbledon probably needed to factor in with this decision is that the forecast for Tuesday is … awful. The tournament got a little lucky Monday, with the possibility of showers and maybe even a thundershower forecast. They never materialized.
Light rain through the morning and early afternoon, then it gets heavier later in the afternoon and into the evening.
Lunchtime with Mannarino
The Djokovic-Mannarino match was rescheduled to be first up on Centre Court Tuesday. And the usual start time of 1 p.m. was moved up to noon. The winner will have to play against on Wednesday, with the men’s quarter-finals scheduled to go that day.
What that means, practically, is that Venus Williams and Jelena Ostapenko, who had a firm 1 p.m. start time for their women’s quarter-final, must now sit and wait.
The men’s best-of-five set match could take two hours. It could take three. It could – as Nadal and Muller did Monday – take four hours and 47 minutes. Or someone could pull a hamstring in the second game of the match, and it could take 10 minutes.
Then comes the other quarter-final from the bottom half of the draw: No. 2 seed Simona Halep vs. No. 6 seed, Brit Johanna Konta.
Men’s postponement affects the women
Those three matches will be played. But what about the top half?
Svetlana Kuznetsova and Garbiñe Muguruza are set to open play on No. 1 Court at 1 p.m., followed by Coco Vandeweghe and Rybarikova.
But … what if the weather forecast is right?
If there were no men’s match on Centre Court, it would be no problem. Within the window of play that must necessarily conclude by an 11 p.m. neighbourhood curfew, they could get all four women’s matches in.
With the Djokovic-Mannarino match a wild card in that mix, there’s no chance that could happen. So what do they do? Play one, leaving the winner of the other to be the only player to have to play on back-to-back days? Play none, postponing both until Wednesday to at least give put that semi-final on even terms?
Likely the latter. Which means that five-time champion Venus and British hope Konta have a nice advantage.